Search

Impact of Sackett v. EPA Decision on Clean Water Act Compliance

Posted on 6/27/2023 by Lion Technology Inc.

On Independence Day, we celebrate the U.S.A. “from sea to shining sea.” 

There’s a lot to love between those seas—and, of course, a lot more water.  Water covers 7% of our country’s 3.8 million square-mile area, according to the US Geological Survey.  

The Clean Water Act gives US EPA the responsibility and authority to create regulations, permit requirements, and more to protect the “Waters of the United States” from pollution. 

For many years now, EPA has struggled to arrive at clear, understandable criteria for how to identify a Water of the United States or “WOTUS.” Attempts to re-define WOTUS during each of the two previous administrations were challenged in court and ultimately washed away. 

Impact of Sackett v. EPA Decision on Clean Water Act Compliance

Now, EPA will have to amend its latest WOTUS Final Rule, finalized in January 2023, following the Supreme Court’s decision in the case Sackett v. EPA. The case was a decade-plus long epic that began when US EPA ordered a property owner in Idaho to cease development on a private plot of land and “immediately undertake activities to restore the Site…” 

Supreme Court Decision in Sackett v. EPA

EPA's basis for taking enforcement action was that the property contained wetlands protected by the Clean Water Act due to the proximity to a protected lake. 

So when is a wetland a WOTUS? In the Sackett decision, Justice Alito gives us the court's take: 

"To determine when a wetland is part of adjacent "waters of the United States,"..."waters" may be fairly read to include only wetlands that are "indistinguishable from waters of the United States." This occurs only when wetlands have "a continuous surface connection to bodies that are 'waters of the United States' in their own right, so that there is no clear demarcation between 'waters' and 'wetlands.'"   

Lately, EPA has applied a "significant nexus" test to determine the applicability of the CWA to a specific body of water. The court writes that the significant nexus test resulted in coverage that was far too broad—with field agents bringing "nearly all waters and wetlands under the risk of CWA jurisdiction by engaging in fact-intensive "significant-nexus" determinations that turned on a lengthy list of hydrological and ecological factors."  

EPA's Next Step to a Working WOTUS Rule

With Sackett decided, EPA now must amend its January 2023 Waters of the US rule to address the court's interpretation of the Clean Water Act's intent. In a statement released Monday, June 26, the agency announced that they intend to issue a Final Rule by September 1, 2023.

From the Boston Tea Party to Washington crossing the Delaware, to Tom Sawyer rafting on the Mississippi, to the surf-inspired music of the Beach Boys, water is not just a necessity for life—it's an integral part of our national history and imagination in the US.

To protect our national waters, limit pollution, and remain in compliance with the law, professionals in industry need a clear definition of "Waters of the United States" they can use to make decisions about compliance. With the long-running Sackett case now decided and EPA setting to work on an amended rule, it seems a definition of WOTUS that sticks might be within splashing distance. 


Complete Environmental Regulations Training

Want a clearer idea of how major EPA air, water, and chemical programs all fit together to affect your site's activities? Join in on the next Complete Environmental Regulations Webinar on July 27–28 at Lion.com.

EH&S professionals who attend can identify the regulations that apply to their facility and locate key requirements to achieve compliance with the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts to EPCRA, TSCA, Superfund, and more. Prefer to train at your own pace? Try the interactive online course.

Tags: Clean Water Act, environmental compliance, Supreme Court, WOTUS

Find a Post

Compliance Archives

Lion - Quotes

The instructor clearly enjoys his job and transmits that enthusiasm. He made a dry subject very interesting and fun.

Teresa Arellanes

EHS Manager

This training broke down the regulations in an easy-to-understand manner and made them less overwhelming. I now feel I have the knowledge to make more informed decisions.

Amanda Oswald

Shipping Professional

Very witty instructor, made the long times sitting bearable. One of the few training courses I can say I actually enjoyed.

John Hutchinson

Senior EHS Engineer

The instructor was very dedicated to providing a quality experience. She did her best to make sure students were really comprehending the information.

Stephanie Venn

Inventory Control Specialist

I tried other environmental training providers, but they were all sub-standard compared to Lion. I will not stray from Lion again!

Sara Sills

Environmental Specialist

No comparison. Lion has the best RCRA training ever!!

Matt Sabine

Environmental Specialist

Lion's course was superior to others I have taken in the past. Very clear in the presentation and the examples helped to explain the content presented.

George Bersik

Hazardous Waste Professional

I chose Lion's online webinar because it is simple, effective, and easily accessible.

Jeremy Bost

Environmental Health & Safety Technician

I have attended other training providers, but Lion is best. Lion is king of the hazmat jungle!!!

Henry Watkins

Hazardous Waste Technician

The instructor took a rather drab set of topics and brought them to life with realistic real-life examples.

Tom Berndt

HSE Coordinator

Download Our Latest Whitepaper

Get to know the top 5 changes to OSHA’s revised GHS Hazard Communication Standard at 29 CFR 1910.1200 and how the updates impacts employee safety at your facility.

Latest Whitepaper

By submitting your phone number, you agree to receive recurring marketing and training text messages. Consent to receive text messages is not required for any purchases. Text STOP at any time to cancel. Message and data rates may apply. View our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.